Thursday 6 June 2013

The Disgrace of Kitty Grey by Mary Hooper

Suddenly nervous about why the two young ladies had asked to meet me in secret, I hurried through the kitchen, went up the servants’ stairs and stood waiting in the hallway between the drawing room and the front parlour, just as Miss Sophia and Miss Alice had requested.
Pages – 288
Published by Bloomsbury in May 2013
Book Summary
Kitty is living a happy, carefree life as a dairymaid in the countryside. The grand family she is employed by looks after her well, and she loves her trade, caring for the gentle cows and working in the cool, calm dairy. And then, of course, there is Will, the river man who she thinks is very fond of her, and indeed she is of him. Surely he will ask her to marry him soon? Then one day disaster strikes: Will disappears. Kitty is first worried and then furious. She fears that Will has only been leading her on all this time, and has now gone to London to make his fortune, forgetting about her completely. So when Kitty is asked to go to London to pick up a copy of Pride and Prejudice, the latest novel by the very fashionable Jane Austen, Kitty leaps at the chance to track down Will. But Kitty has no idea how vast London is, and how careful she must be. It is barely a moment before eagle-eyed pickpockets have spotted the country-born-and-bred Kitty and relieved her of her money and belongings. Dauntingly fast, she has lost her only means of returning home and must face the terrifying prospect of stealing in order to survive - and of being named a thief ...
Mary Hooper is one of those authors who can pick you up and transport you anywhere in history. Every book she writes is so thoroughly researched, you feel like the author has magical powers allowing her to visit the periods in history she writes so realistically about.
During this novel, we are transported back to the time of Napoleon and find ourselves in a beautiful, idyllic country setting. Life isn’t easy, but Kitty loves her job and works hard to do it well; she takes great pride in the dairy. With the love of Will, the ferryman, she is content and looks forward to spending the future with him. It’s only when he disappears that Kitty’s life starts to unravel. In her desperation to find him, she enters London blindly only to discover her future doesn’t look too bright any more.
This book is full of fascinating contrasts. In the beginning, you compare Kitty’s life to the wealthy family she works for. The differences are obvious, and yet surprisingly, Kitty’s life seems more appealing. At least she can choose who she would like to marry unlike the young ladies of the house who are bound by their parent’s decisions. As the book progresses you begin to contrast life in the country with life in London. London comes across as grey and depressing, as Kitty struggles to survive. As each day passes, her situation just gets worse until she ends up in Newgate Prison, the lowest she can go.
I loved the descriptions in this book.From country life to London life, you get an excellent impression of both.  Newgate Prison has always intrigued me. The conditions they lived under were appalling; the lack of places to sleep, no opportunities for cleanliness and very little food, yet if you had money you could pay to make your conditions better. This shows clearly the unfairness of society during this period in history. People were jailed for the least little thing. If someone burnt a chair these days,  I doubt an eyebrow would be lifted, yet in those days you were thrown in jail, facing the possibility of being whipped or put in the stocks.
If I’m honest, I would’ve liked a different ending. I wanted to see what would happen if Kitty continued on the route she was originally destined to take. How her life would have turned out if the events of the final pages had not occurred. On reviewing the book now, I wonder if the author might take that idea and use it for a future book and we might see what happens when  someone actually takes the journey that Kitty nearly embarked on.

1 comment:

  1. Vivienne, it has been too long since I've visited Serendipity! It's nice to have a little time to do that now. This book does seem to focus on contrasts. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts about The Disgrace of Kitty Grey.


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